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O'Malley defends 'zero tolerance' approach to abusive priests

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinals and clergy participating in the Vatican’s sex abuse summit expressed conflicting views on the use of the term “zero tolerance” Friday, with some claiming that “zero tolerance” is an American concept with a legalistic focus.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, one of the pope’s primary advisors on sexual abuse, said he knows that “there is a lot of resistance to using the terminology” of zero-tolerance at the summit because some believe it sounds “secular.” But, the cardinal insisted that the principle was “clearly articulated” by Pope St. John Paul II.

“There is no place in ministry for someone who harms a child and that has to be a line in the sand. That is something that is so important for all of us,” O’Malley said at a Vatican press conference Feb. 22.

Father Federico Lombardi, acting moderator at the Vatican sex abuse summit, told the press he does not use the term “zero tolerance” when he writes about the protection of minors because its definition is limited compared to what Vatican meeting has set out to accomplish.

“‘Zero tolerance’ … clearly refers to a very limited aspect of the problem we are confronting because the entire dimension of the pastoral care for victims, accompaniment, the selection of members of the clergy, prevention in parishes and in our activities, the definition of zero tolerance does not cover these aspects. It refers to one way of punitive action against criminals,” Lombardi said.

“This is very important fundamental part, but it is one part of the entire area of the protection of minors, which I think is much broader than ‘zero tolerance,’” he continued.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta supported the notion of “zero tolerance,” saying that “we cannot allow anyone in ministry” who might harm the young, but stated that “the prudential approach is not primarily a criminal approach -- I’m not going to remove someone from ministry to punish them, but to protect the flock.”

Scicluna added that “those who don’t like the notion of ‘zero tolerance’ … don’t know what this means.”

“This is a principle already stated very clearly by John Paul II in his 23 April 2002 and this is what is to fuel every decision from the prudential and pastoral standpoint. It has a fundamental principle if the person is removed to spend a life of prayer and repentance,” he said.

O’Malley explained that in the United States’ Dallas Charter for the Protection of Minors “the commitment was no one could continue in ministry after having harmed a child,” and that he would “advocate for that everywhere.”

Others focused on “zero tolerance” as “an American and Canadian” concept. Lombardi said at the press conference, “As Cardinal O’Malley says, to the Americans, the Canadians, it means something very specific. Anybody who has committed a serious offence they cannot remain in ministry, well I agree, but when I talk about protection of minors, I am talking about a lot of other things as well.”

While O’Malley advanced the idea of an application of the American model of protection of minors elsewhere, Cupich warned against becoming “imperialists” from “the United States or from the Western world” in dealing with different areas of the world that do “not have the experience of talking about these very intimate personal issues in a public way.”

In response  to a question about the difficulty of cultural diversity in the meeting of the world’s bishops, Cupich added that “this is what synodality is about -- it is walking together with each other, but also maybe learning from their experience and their own culture that there are some things that we could improve on given the richness of their own culture.”

The second day of the the Vatican abuse summit focused on the theme of “accountability,” which included discussion of “zero tolerance.”

Sex abuse victims on the sidelines of the Vatican summit have been calling for “zero tolerance” for sex abuse for both abuses and bishops who cover-up abuse. Some survivors’ organizations, such as Ending Clergy Abuse, specified that for them “zero-tolerance” meant “laicization” for such bishops and abuser priests.

O’Malley explained that within current U.S. protocols, the specific promise of “zero tolerance” is that abuser priests will be removed from ministry in all cases.

“The conclusion wasn’t automatically that they would be laicized...and that if they were elderly or sickly that they would have prayer or penance. And some religious communities thought it was better to maintain that person within the community to be able to monitor them for the safety of children,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley also said that he has been told that the Holy See’s investigation on the American church’s handling of abuser Theodore McCarrick will be released “in the not too distant future.”

Scicluna also expressed a desire to someday release statistics from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on clerical abuse, and said that he had already spoken with Cardinal Luis Ladaria about the matter.

O’Malley clarified that the 21 reflection points given out to bishops on the first day of the summit were a compilation of points submitted by the bishops. “It wasn’t coming from [Pope Francis] himself.

On day two of the submit, Pope Francis circulated the United Nations’ document on the rights of a child among the presidents of bishops conferences gathered for the meeting.

Cardinal O’Malley said “there is a moral obligation to share this information with the civil authorities for the safety of children. I think that the terrible crisis that we have experienced in the USA is precisely because for so long these crimes were not being reported so reporting to me is a big part of the way forward and for the protection of children.”


Victims of Liberia gold mine collapse receive prayers from pope

Gbarnga, Liberia, Feb 22, 2019 / 03:21 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis offered his condolences Thursday to those affected by a mudslide at a gold mine in Liberia earlier this month which has killed at least seven and trapped another 40.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by a mudslide in Gbanipea, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with you and all those affected by this tragedy,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin Vatican Secretary of State, wrote in a Feb. 21 telegram to Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga.

A pit in an illegal gold mine near Tapeta, about 100 miles southeast of Gbarnga, caved in Feb. 10.

Other miners attempted to recover the trapped workers by using their bare hands to remove debris in an effort to rescue people without further harm. The workers did not have access to heavy machinery, but an excavator is reportedly being sent to the site.

The government delegated the police, army, and immigration agency officials to monitor the situation. Thousands of people, some of whom are migrants, are believed to work in the dangerous mine.

More than 60 miners were arrested, the BBC reported Feb. 17. Some of the people were armed and the situation was “lawless,” said Aubrey Wehye, Tapeta district superintendent.

Archievego Doe, a member of the disaster management agency, told the BBC that these miners had “resisted” the government’s effort to improve order.

In the statement, the Pope promised to pray for all involved, asking God to grant strength to the victim’s loved ones and emergency workers.   

“He prays for those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and the emergency personnel who assist the victims. Upon all the Holy Father invokes the divine blessings of strength and healing.”

Cardinal Gracias emphasizes collegiality to address sex abuse

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay called Friday for the “entire Church” to “act decisively to prevent abuse from occurring in the future and to do whatever possible to foster healing for victims.”

Calling the abuse suffered at the hands of those in the Church “a profound betrayal of trust,” he offered practical solutions mainly focused on fostering better communication on all levels of the Church’s hierarchy during a Feb. 22 speech at the Vatican.

“As serious as the direct abuse of children and vulnerable adults is, the indirect damage inflicted by those with directive responsibility within the Church can be worse by re-victimising those who have already suffered abuse,” the cardinal noted.

Gracias is one of the principal organizers of a Vatican summit taking place this week to address the sexual abuse of minors, which features the presidents of national bishops’ conferences worldwide.

Gracias himself admitted to the BBC Feb. 21 that he could have better handled sexual abuse allegations that were brought to him in the past, after several Indian victims of sexual abuse told the BBC that Gracias failed to respond quickly or offer support to victims.

Gracias said the way to address the crisis must involve the “regional, national, local-diocesan, and even parochial levels,” which all must work together to create binding measures and decisions. He noted a recent meeting of the bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example of the bishops of a nation coming together in a collegial manner to address national challenges.

“No bishop should say to himself, ‘I face these problems and challenges alone,’” Gracias underscored, speaking of the concepts of collegiality and synodality.

“Because we belong to the college of bishops in union with the Holy Father, we all share accountability and responsibility. Collegiality is an essential context for addressing wounds of abuse inflicted on victims and on the Church at large.”

Gracias cited a passage from Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church, which teaches that individual bishops are “obliged by Christ's institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church.” He also noted that further development of “intercultural competences” and intercultural communication will help with effective decision making.

“The point is clear,” Gracias said.

“No bishop may say to himself, ‘This problem of abuse in the Church does not concern me, because things are different in my part of the world.’ We are each responsible for the whole Church. We hold accountability and responsibility together. We extend our concern beyond our local Church to embrace all the Churches with which we are in communion.”

Gracias pointed out that a culture of silence among bishops, unwilling to admit to mistakes and to engage other bishops in open conversation and point out “problematic behavior,” has contributed to the abuse crisis. He encouraged the cultivation of a culture of fraternal correction, where bishops are able to correct each other without offending the other, while also recognizing “criticism from a brother as an opportunity to better fulfil our tasks.”

He also called for better communication between bishops' conferences and Rome.

“We can always only take responsibility for something insofar as we are allowed to do so, and the more responsibility we are granted, the better we can serve our own flock,” he said.

Gracias highlighted three main themes for his brother bishops to reflect on: justice, healing, and pilgrimage.

“The sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people not only breaks divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behaviour,” he said.

“The Church does not only live in an isolated world of its own making...Those who are guilty of criminal behaviour are justly accountable to civil authority for that behaviour.”

Although the Church is not an agent of the state, he said, the Church recognises the legitimate authority of civil law and the state and cooperates with civil authorities to bring justice to survivors. This is only possible if bishops and local Churches can work together to build an appropriate relationship with the state.

Healing for victims requires “clear, transparent, and consistent communication” from the Church as well, Gracias said, beginning with “a respectful outreach and an honest acknowledgement of their pain and hurt.”

“Although this would seem to be obvious, it has not always been communicated,” he said.

“Ignoring or minimising what victims have experienced only exacerbates their pain and delays their healing. Within a collegial Church, we can summon each other to attentiveness and
compassion that enable us to make this outreach and acknowledgement.”

Once the hurt has been acknowledged, the Church can offer to help victims heal with the help of “professional counselling to support groups of peers” or other means, and can then implement measures to prevent abuse in the future.

“Our Holy Father has wisely and correctly said that abuse is a human problem. It is not, of course, limited to the Church. In fact, it is a pervasive and sad reality across all sectors of life. Out of this particularly challenging moment in the life of the Church, we – again in a collegial context – can draw on and develop resources which can be of great service to a larger world.”

Finally, the cardinal reflected on the pilgrim nature of the Church, noting that “we know that we have not yet arrived at our destination,” and “we are a community that is called to continuous repentance and continuous discernment.”

“We must repent – and do so together, collegially – because along the way we have failed. We need to seek pardon. We must also be in a process of continuous discernment. In other words, together or collegially, we need to watch, wait, observe, and discover the direction that God is giving us in the circumstances of our lives,” Gracias said.

The cardinal concluded by reminding his brother bishops that undertaking these tasks is not their mission alone, but that these actions “are the work of the Holy Spirit.”

“So, let the last word be Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni,” he concluded.

Analysis: In spite of itself, Vatican abuse summit may still do some good

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2019 / 12:32 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s abuse summit this week will not solve the problems plaguing the Catholic Church in the U.S.

In fact, it doesn’t aim to.

The summit was called by Pope Francis in September, shortly after he was accused of ignoring reports about the predatory behavior of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

But from the beginning, Pope Francis and meeting organizers have been disinclined to include in the summit's schedule any discussion of the issues the Church in the U.S. faces.

Conference organizers, including Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, have insisted even this week that the summit will not discuss predatory homosexual behavior.
In a Feb. 22 press conference, Archbishop Charles Scicluna went so far as to acknowledge a reporter’s point that homosexual behavior in seminaries fosters a culture of cover-up, before he said, curtly, that “this has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of minors.”

Scicluna said this despite McCarrick’s coercion of both vulnerable seminarians and teenaged boys, and despite the fact that most clerical abuse of minors in the West has targeted post-pubescent boys.

In fact, the first reported victim of McCarrick was 16 and 17 at the time he was abused.

Is it possible to focus discussion so myopically and insistently on child sexual abuse as to ignore the idea that sexually abusing a 17-year-old might have something to do with sexual immorality among adults?

Will Catholics accept the presupposition that those who sexually abuse 17-year-olds have an entire different moral or psychological pathology than those who sexually abuse 18-year-olds, or who coerce them into the veneer of consent against the backdrop of an extraordinary power imbalance?

Those ideas, many Catholics will conclude, simply belie credibility.

The summit will also not discuss in-depth the need for mechanisms of accountability for negligent or malfeasant bishops, despite the fact that McCarrick’s behavior went unchecked even after it was reported multiple times, and the fact that several U.S. bishops now face charges of negligence or misconduct.

While Cupich gave a presentation on some approaches to procedural investigations, he presented only the plan that would vest investigative responsibility for bishops only in their archbishops, though lay experts, including the National Review Board in the U.S., have supported alternative proposals.

His address did not mention the potential for metropolitans to incur significant legal liability through the so-called “metropolitan model,” though this is a point of considerable importance with regard to the Church in the U.S.

Critics of the summit charge that the pope called this meeting mostly as a diversion from the accusations of negligence he’s faced personally, stemming from his handling of accused prelates in the U.S., South America, and Europe. The pope still faces questions about his handling of the cases of Chile’s Bishop Juan Barros, McCarrick, Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, whom Francis promoted despite evidence of serious sexual malfeasance, among others.

But even if the narrow focus of this meeting is intended to change the topic of global conversation, this week’s abuse summit can still do some real good for children around the world. There is a serious need for safeguarding policies in most of the developing world, and introducing them in the Church may catalyze their more widespread adoption.

But by design, the Vatican summit won’t answer the issues embroiling local churches in the U.S. And Catholics are especially frustrated because when U.S. bishops attempted to vote on a reform package in November, they were stopped by the Vatican, and advised to wait until after this week’s meeting. Now some bishops wonder what, exactly, they were supposed to be waiting for.

Real reform in the diocese of the U.S., it is becoming clear, will depend a great deal on local bishops making local changes in their local churches. Last month, the Archbishop of Baltimore announced a comprehensive whistleblower policy for his diocese, rather than wait for one to be introduced nationally. Other bishops can follow suit.

In response to the crisis, they can also develop more exacting local norms for screening seminary candidates, take up new approaches to leadership of their priests and lay employees, and they can commit to making themselves accountable to independent lay leaders.

The work of the Church continues in this country, even amid the crisis it faces. Catholic schools continue to educate millions of students, many of them poor. Catholic charities continue to serve the homeless, the undocumented, and the unseen. Catholic hospitals continue to treat the uninsured. And Catholic parishes continue striving to love the unloved- those whom Pope Francis says live on the “existential peripheries” of our society. The Church does all this in service to the Gospel it professes. But to continue to do so with credibility, the sexual abuse crisis must be addressed.

Neither the Vatican nor the national bishops’ conference has yet acted decisively to address the full scope of the crisis. And this week, the Vatican seems to have demonstrated key components of the crisis. But local bishops can, and without waiting for anyone else to act. Some have already begun that work, and the rest may soon be convinced to join them.


Daniel Rudd: A pioneering leader in black Catholic journalism

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy National Black Catholic Congress

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- With February being both Black History Month and Catholic Press Month, Daniel Rudd's story is worth knowing.

A pioneering Catholic journalist, he founded the national black newspaper the American Catholic Tribune and also was the founder of what is today the National Black Catholic Congress.

Rudd was born on Aug. 7, 1845, in Bardstown, Kentucky, to slave parents Robert and Elizabeth Rudd. His parents were Catholic, and he and all of his 11 siblings were baptized. It is unclear how Rudd's faith became so important to him, but it is clear that it did.

"I have always been a Catholic and, feeling that I knew the teachings of the Catholic Church, I thought there could be no greater factor in solving the race problem than that matchless institution whose history for 1,900 years is but a continual triumph over all assailants," Rudd wrote in his newspaper.

Following the Civil War, he moved to Springfield, Ohio, where his brother lived and where he attended high school.

In 1885, he began his first newspaper, the Ohio Tribune. Later that year, he expanded its mission and changed the name to the American Catholic Tribune, the first national Catholic newspaper owned and operated by a black man.

"We will do what no other paper published by colored men has dared to do -- give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this Continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudice at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar."

Several American bishops endorsed his newspaper, and he listed them on the masthead: "Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore, Md., the most Reverend Archbishops of Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and the Right Reverend Bishops of Covington, Ky., Columbus, O., Richmond, Va., Vincennes, Ind., and Wilmington, Del."

Each issue averaged four pages targeting literate black Americans. He also had white Catholics among his subscribers. Correspondents in various locations such as New England; St. Louis; and Fort Wayne, Indiana, reported on news at various times around the country.

In 1886, Rudd moved the publication to Cincinnati. In addition to stories from correspondents, the newspaper reprinted stories from other newspapers, which was customary for small newspapers at the time. Some of these stories featured coverage of lectures Father Augustus Tolton gave in various towns.

Subscriptions and advertisements did not cover the cost of the newspaper's publication, so Rudd raised funds through donations. Revenue from a printing company in the Cincinnati office also defrayed costs.

Rudd was both a journalist and an activist. He featured news relevant to black Americans and championed the rights of blacks, writing editorials opposed to segregation and discrimination in all of its forms. As violence against blacks increased in the 1890s and hangings became more prevalent, Rudd spoke out against Americans' inaction over these atrocities.

Throughout his editorials and features, Rudd's mission and philosophy came through: "The Catholic Church alone can break the color line. Our people should help her to do it."

On another occasion, he wrote: "The Negro of this country, ostracized, abused, downtrodden and condemned, needs all the forces which may be brought to bear in his behalf to elevate him to that plane of equality which would give him the status he needs as 'a man among men.' ... We need assistance and should obtain help whenever and wherever it can be given. The Holy Roman Catholic Church offers to the oppressed Negro a material as well as spiritual refuge, superior to all the inducements of other organizations combined."

Rudd saw the ordination of Father Tolton -- the first identified black man ordained for the U.S. church -- as a watershed moment for the Catholic Church in America.

His ordination showed that the universal Catholic Church considered blacks equal to all others. It also challenged the prevailing opinion that blacks were intellectually and morally inferior. An editorial in 1888 read: "The Catholic Church takes men from all the walks of life and if they but follow her example and teachings she will not only place them beyond the railings, but she will guarantee them a sure footing and endless happiness in the world beyond the grave."

The idea began to form in Rudd's mind of a national gathering of black Catholics in Washington. He first proposed the congress in the American Catholic Tribune in May 1888.

No group was more passionate or desirous of the advancement of black people than black Catholics, he said. For that reason they should gather and become leaven for their race in America, "to have our people realize the church's extent among them. We are hidden away, as it were. Let us stand forth and look at one another. ... Every Colored Catholic must, at times, feel that his Colored brethren look upon him as an alien, and may even be told so. Our Protestant friends have false notions of us," he wrote.

In all, five congresses took place in different cities: 1889 in Washington; 1890 in Cincinnati; 1892 in Philadelphia; 1893 in Chicago; and 1894 in Baltimore. The next National Black Catholic Congress would not be held until 1987. It is unclear why the congresses ended.

In 1894, Rudd moved his offices of the struggling American Catholic Tribune to Detroit, but no more issues were published. There is no doubt, however, that Rudd's story is an important part of the history of Catholic journalists in the United States today.

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Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. This story is adapted from a chapter on Rudd from her book "Augustus Tolton: The Church Is the True Liberator," published by Liturgical Press.

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Little Rock diocese welcomes Roe-triggered abortion ban in Arkansas

Little Rock, Ark., Feb 22, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Little Rock has said that a law signed Tuesday banning abortion in Arkansas in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned is a step toward a future without the procedure.

“Act 180 is a welcome addition to the law in Arkansas and happily anticipates the day when our society can be free from the scourge of elective abortion on demand,” Catherine Phillips, diocesan respect life director, told CNA.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed Act 180 Feb. 19. The legislation had passed the Senate 29-6 earlier this month.  

The 1973 US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade found that a woman had the right to seek an abortion in the United States. If the Supreme Court decision is overturned, then the law would automatically ban abortions in Arkansas except in cases of medical emergencies.

Phillips said the law is important because it takes a pro-life stance, especially amid a push for pro-abortion protections in other states. She pointed to a January law in New York that decriminalized the procedure and stripped it of most safeguards.

“It is important in comparison with what has been done recently in states like New York. Regrettably, other states are passing laws to perpetuate and expand abortion, but Act 180 stakes out a national position that supports life,” she said.

“Act 180 affirms that Arkansas disagrees with the finding of Roe v. Wade and stands for the position that life begins at conception and should be protected from that moment.”

Arkansas is the fifth state to ban abortion in case Roe is overturned. Trigger bans are also in effect in Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Similar bills have been introduced in Kentucky and Tennessee, and legislators in Oklahoma have signalled their intent to do the same.

President Donald Trump has promised to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. Were Roe overturned, states would be again free to outlaw abortion, which has led to Republican-leading states acting to ban abortion in case Roe is overturned, and Democratic-leaning states, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Mexico, working to enshrine abortion protections.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the bench.

Before the Arkansas Senate’s Feb. 7 vote on the bill, its sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, said the bill reflected the state’s pro-life intentions.

"The state of Arkansas is clearly a pro-life state and our citizens have spoken clearly time and time again that we should protect the lives of unborn babies," said Rapert, according to Arkansas Online.

Arkansas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. A bill has been introduced in the legislature to drop the limit to 18 weeks.

Vatican official urges reconsidering 'pontifical secret' in abuse cases

IMAGE: CNS photo/Maria Grazie Picciarella, pool

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church should re-examine how "pontifical secret" is applied in clerical sex abuse cases so there is greater transparency in the cases and it is not invoked "to hide problems," said a canon lawyer and Vatican official.

Linda Ghisoni is a canon lawyer who serves as a consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is undersecretary for laity at the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. She was the first woman to give a major presentation at the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical abuse crisis.

Addressing the summit Feb. 22, Ghisoni described bishops' accountability, regular audits and lay review boards as essential to demonstrating with facts a profession of faith in the church as a communion of the baptized, each of whom are given gifts by the Holy Spirit and are called to share those gifts for the good of the church and the world.

At the end of her speech, Ghisoni suggested reviewing "the current norm on the pontifical secret."

Already in September 2017, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors asked Pope Francis to reconsider Vatican norms maintaining the imposition of "pontifical secret" in the church's judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes.

The secret ensures cases are dealt with in strict confidentiality. Vatican experts have said it was designed to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities.

Ghisoni said there are values to protect, including the good name of the accused, unless and until he is proven guilty, but a revision could lead to "the development of a climate of greater transparency and trust, avoiding the idea that the secret is used to hide problems rather than protect the values at stake."

The second day of the summit was dedicated to accountability, and Ghisoni focused her remarks on how accountability is not simply a good practice from a public relations and organizational point of view, but that it is a necessary part of a church living its reality as a community.

"A bishop cannot think that questions regarding the church can be resolved by him acting alone" or only with other bishops, she said. Every member of the church is called to work together to ensure that children are safe.

She urged bishops to not resist having regular audits of diocesan safeguarding policies and of the ways he or he and his review board have handled allegations.

An audit, she said, "must not be misunderstood as mistrust of the superior or bishop, but rather considered an aid" for examining actions taken and sharing responsibility for them.

"Identifying an objective method of accountability not only does not weaken his authority," she said, "but it values him as the shepherd of a flock" whose responsibilities are "not separated from the people for whom he is called to give his life."

When a bishop works together with priests, religious and laypeople in designing procedures and accountability models, she said, mistakes and errors are not a "stain" on the bishops' honor, but a call for all involved to find a way to repair the damage and ensure it does not happen again.

Safeguarding children and fighting abuse must not be "a program" for the church, she said, but "must become an ordinary pastoral attitude."

After Ghisoni spoke, Pope Francis said inviting a woman to address the conference was not about "ecclesiastical feminism." Rather, he said, "inviting a woman to speak about the wounds of the church is to invite the church to speak about itself and the wounds it has."

The church, he said, is not an "organization," but is "a family born of mother church," which the bishops should keep in mind as they continue their deliberations.

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Harming a child must be 'line in the sand' for removal, cardinal says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For the Catholic Church, there is a "line in the sand," which can never be crossed, and that is to not allow anyone who harms or would harm a child to exercise public ministry, said Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston.

In fact, removing someone from public ministry for abuse should be seen not so much as a punitive act as much as it is an urgent pastoral and "prudential" measure to keep young people safe, added Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.

The cardinal and archbishop spoke with reporters Feb. 22 at a news conference during the second day of a Vatican summit on child protection in the church.

They were responding to questions as to why there seemed to be resistance or reluctance to adopting "zero tolerance" policies and why, in some cases, leaders are hesitant to even use the term.

One reporter noted that, to the dismay of survivors gathered in Rome, "zero tolerance" was not mentioned on a list of 21 points Pope Francis distributed Feb. 21 for reflection -- points that had been compiled from ideas bishops had provided beforehand.

Cardinal O'Malley, who is a papal adviser on the Council of Cardinals and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said, "I know there is a lot of resistance to using that terminology," perhaps it sounds too "secular, I don't know."

But he said zero tolerance reflects a principle that was "so clearly articulated" by St. John Paul II in 2002 when he said that there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young.

That principle, Cardinal O'Malley said, "has to be a line in the sand."

Responding to a related question, he said he would advocate the removal of a person from ministry for all cases of abuse against minors everywhere and clarified that additional penalties -- such as dismissal from the clerical state or a life of prayer and penance -- would vary, following the principle of proportionality of punishment.

Archbishop Scicluna said another way to look at the situation would be to see removal from ministry as an action that "has nothing to do with punishment, but (is) a prudential and urgent" measure that is taken to guarantee the safety of minors.

The issue of proportionality applies to the variety and severity of penalties that an ordained minister could receive if found guilty, said the archbishop, who also serves as president of the doctrinal congregation board that reviews appeals filed by priests laicized or otherwise disciplined in sexual abuse or other serious cases.

But when looking at what should be done across the board with a person who has harmed a minor, there is no question that the person cannot remain in public ministry, he said.

"I think even those people who do not like the concept of zero tolerance because they do not exactly know what it is, they would never dare say, 'Well, there's someone who could do harm to young people' and they leave him in ministry," he said.  

Removal reflects the person's unsuitability for ministry and is not primarily a question about punishment, which can vary case by case, he said.

"I don't remove a person from ministry to punish him, but to protect the flock," the archbishop said.

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Cardinal Cupich asks for new structure to ensure bishops' accountability

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs "new legal structures of accountability" for bishops accused of sexual abuse or of negligence in handling abuse allegations, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago told the Vatican summit on safeguarding.

Addressing Pope Francis and some 190 presidents of bishops' conferences, heads of Eastern Catholic churches, religious superiors and officials of the Roman Curia Feb. 22, Cardinal Cupich provided details of what some people have described as a "metropolitan model" of accountability, although he insisted the model would involve laypeople.

Church territories are grouped into provinces with an archdiocese, which is the metropolitan see, and neighboring dioceses. Under the current law governing the Latin-rite church, the archbishop or cardinal leading the metropolitan see has very little responsibility for the province; that would change under Cardinal Cupich's proposal.

The guidelines also would name an alternate -- perhaps the neighboring metropolitan or the senior diocesan bishop -- in cases where the accused is the metropolitan archbishop.

The proposal made by Cardinal Cupich at the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical abuse scandal was similar to one he made in November to the full U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal also included elements of proposals the U.S. bishops had planned to vote on in November, but the Vatican had asked them to hold off until after the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit. The common elements included setting up a toll-free number or website for reporting bishops and establishing a fund to pay for investigations of bishops accused of abuse or negligence.

The Chicago prelate told reporters later that his presentation had two main differences from what the U.S. bishops initially proposed: using metropolitans gives the process a regional character that is especially important for ensuring outreach to and follow up with the victim; and the U.S. bishops' proposal was voluntary, whereas his would be obligatory.

Responding to questions about trusting bishops to investigate brother bishops, Cardinal Cupich said that is another reason why he insisted laypeople be involved in receiving and investigating allegations; it is essential for the transparency of the system.

Cardinal Cupich's presentation at the summit focused on increasing accountability but doing so in a "synodal" fashion by including laypeople "in a discernment and reform that penetrates throughout the church" and by formulating laws and procedures that flow from the church's reality as a spiritual institution.

"We must move to establish robust laws and structures regarding the accountability of bishops precisely to supply with a new soul the institutional reality of the church's discipline on sexual abuse," the cardinal told the summit.

Cardinal Cupich said the need for a system where bishops, aided by lay experts, hold other bishops accountable could be seen in the events of "this past year," presumably referring to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse and the case of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who, in 2018, was found to be credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor and was dismissed from the clerical state in February after being found guilty.

"This past year has taught us that the systematic failures in holding clerics of all rank responsible are due in large measure to flaws in the way we interact and communicate with each other in the College of Bishops in union with the successor of Peter," Cardinal Cupich said.

Before the summit began, each participant was asked to meet with and listen to a survivor or survivors of abuse. The meeting included testimony from survivors, and the main speakers and the survivors gathered outside the meeting all insisted that listening to the victims is the first step.

The listening is not a courtesy and must not include conditions being placed on the survivors, the cardinal said. "Our listening must be willing to accept challenge and confrontation and even condemnation for the church's past and present failures to keep safe the most precious of the Lord's flock."

In general, Cardinal Cupich suggested each bishops' conference "establish standards for conducting the investigations of bishops," which, he said, "should involve and consult lay experts."

The Catholic faithful should know how to report allegations of abuse or negligence involving a bishop, he said, and should involve "independent reporting mechanisms in the form of a dedicated telephone line and-or web portal service to receive and transmit the allegations directly to the apostolic nuncio," who is the pope's representative in the country, and to the metropolitan or to a panel of lay experts, depending on the system designed by the local bishops.

Cardinal Cupich's model mirrored in many ways the procedure used for investigating an allegation against a priest. He would have a metropolitan archbishop and lay review board, or at least lay experts, conduct an initial review of the allegations. If the allegation seemed credible -- or as the cardinal said, "has even the semblance of truth" -- the metropolitan would request from the Vatican the authority to begin a full investigation; the Vatican approval is necessary because, according to church law, only the pope investigate and discipline a bishop.

The results of the full investigation would be forwarded to the Vatican, which determines whether a trial is warranted and how it should be conducted.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who handles abuse cases as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters later, "the supreme pontiff -- the pope -- has a special jurisdiction over the bishops that has to be respected."

At the same time, he said, "it is within the context of communion that we have to live accountability," which means other bishops and laypeople always must be involved.


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